Bevel-Up Bench Planes
Setting the Blade
A sharp blade is only part of the equation for a plane that cuts well. The other key element is the setup. Now that we have sharpened our blade, let’s complete our setup.
What initial adjustments should I make?
The front knob allows you to set the mouth to the desired opening, generally just enough to let the shaving pass. It’s best to leave it open slightly wider than the final setting, then close it up after the blade adjustments have been made. The mouth adjustment screw should be contacting the toe; you can then use it to make fine final adjustments in the mouth opening after the depth of cut is set.
The lever cap screw should be snug enough but not overtightened. A quarter turn after full engagement is plenty. Never torque it down; this may damage the plane.
The side alignment screws facilitate centering the blade in the mouth and prevent the blade from shifting in use. They are initially adjusted so both screws just touch the blade, then backed off ever so slightly.
How do I set the cutting depth?
There are a couple of methods for setting the blade; try them both and see which works for you. Each begins with the cutting edge retracted just below the sole.
Method #1: Sight down the sole, either from the front or the rear. Slowly advance the blade until the cutting edge just begins to emerge. Ensure that it’s parallel to the sole by pivoting the blade adjuster. Take a test cut and assess the results. Advance or retract the blade and make lateral adjustments as needed. Continue the process until you achieve an even shaving of the desired thickness.
Image left: Plane blade skewed to plane sole. Image right: Plane blade set parallel to plane sole.
Method #2: Instead of sighting the blade, this approach uses a small scrap of wood (approximately 1/8" × 1" × 2"- 3”) to test the cutting edge as it emerges. Run the scrap wood past the cutting edge at both corners of the blade. If the blade doesn’t take a shaving, advance it slightly and try again.
The initial goal is to ensure the cutting edge is parallel to the sole; make lateral adjustments until both shavings are the same thickness. You can then focus on setting the blade projection for the desired depth of cut. Alternatively, you can use a larger piece of wood held in a vise.
With a sharp, properly adjusted plane you should be well on the way to producing smooth, crisp surfaces.